Our discussions on communication as a bedrock for result-oriented relationship at all levels continues with this discourse on communicating effectively in the market-place. Market-place in this context depicts your place of work, your business environment and in the relationship you have with your superiors, colleagues, and subordinates not excluding the critical stakeholders of every business who are the customers and/or clients.
Let us hit the nail on the head right from the start. We will look at communication in this realm from four critical angles:
1. Vertical Communication – Relating with your superiors
Except you run your own business and are the CEO, you may have someone up above you in the hierarchy to whom you have to report. In that case, you will need to know how to communicate with that person in order that you enjoy a smooth working relationship. Where there is a disconnect in communication, the work will suffer and like most superiors, they will lay the blame at your desk and the consequences of having to be the reason for a project or activity not working can be damning as it is demoralizing.
In Africa, like in most developing countries, there exists a lord and master format of relationship between the boss and his subordinates. While this is not the ideal in text-book management style, we must come to terms with the reality and work with it while working our way towards the ideal. The ability to balance the ideal with the reality calls for maturity on your part as you communicate with your boss. It is therefore important that you understand the way his mind works, his mood swings and his work attitude; this will enable you to say the appropriate things at the right time. When such people give instructions, having known what they mean besides what they say through effective listening learnt over time of working with them, you can do their bidding to the amazement of others who do not want to pay attention to learn this art.
2. Horizontal Communication – Relating with your colleagues
Ordinarily, one expects that relationship amongst colleagues should not elicit any difficulty but yet again, it is a tension soaked area. I have discussed with folks who believe that their work-place is a shark-infested environment. Rather than engage in the core duties that brought everyone to the place of work, many work places have become dens of politics, back-stabbing and high-wire divide-and-rule camp. Some of the tensions are deliberated engineered from the superiors who would want to have camps amongst the employees in order to achieve their inordinate ambitions.
Working in this kind of environment which is commonplace, for you to keep your head up and get results, you must determine that the work place is not an avenue for cultivating friendships. It is a place of work to earn a living and you ensure that personal interests do not take center-stage. With this understanding, you will learn how not to be affected by negative statements and discussions; you will be able to equip your mind to be focused only on the job and this will directly or indirectly affect your communication so that you get to say what is needed at every point in time and you listen and assimilate only those things that are related directly to the job. This will enable you walk the fine line between distraction and focus.
Learn to care about your colleagues enough to seek their good and be careful to be distant enough from controversial issues not directly related to your job functions.
3. Down-ward Communication – Relating to your subordinates
You will have to relate and deal with those below your rank in the work place. You need them to effectively carry out your duties. You may not totally like all of them but yet again, the work place is not a place for being liked or for you to like the people. You must always keep the big picture of the job in front of you – getting the core objective realized. Be sentimental and sensitive enough to treat your subordinates as fellow human beings and be firm enough to ensure they follow instructions and get their jobs done. This has to be built into how you communicate: friendly, firm and clear. If you communicate with them the way you do with your superiors, they will take advantage of your liberality; if you relate with them as colleagues, they will think you are equals and they can chose not to take instructions; but if your speech and command of language is firm and instructive but not aggressive and oppressive, they will know their level and get things done.
4. Communicating with your Clients
While the first three levels of communication are important, this is most critical because the customer is the reason why you open your doors every day. Therefore, whether you are the business owner or you are the employee, thecustomer must be truly treated as king and must be accorded all the courtesy of an important personality. No customer should enter into your office and spend up to 3 seconds before he is warmly greeted and made welcome. He must not be allowed to speak up before you if you are the first point of contact either in the front desk or in your department. He should be spoken to softly, sincerely and with all sense of modesty. To the customer, gesticulations, body language and the spoken word all mean something important to him and these conveys messages on their own. It will not be out of place to learn the art of customer relationship with a crash course in communication in this respect.
This discussion will continue later with a third realm of communication. Stay connected.